"If there's one thing history has taught us, besides not to piss off people called Genghis or put lead in your water pipes, it's that if you're going to make something incredibly good that becomes frighteningly popular, make sure it's the last thing you ever make in your entire life because otherwise you get to spend the rest of your creative career struggling under the weight of high expectations and bricks."
A work which attains such overwhelming success
that it dooms its creator's later efforts to languish in its shadow. The follow-up may have its own merits, but fans will dismiss it because it doesn't stand up to the original
Essentially the creative version of typecasting
Contrast Protection from Editors
, for when the new creations do
suck but get published anyway, or need more work if they're not going to suck but no one dares tell you this. Compare with Glory Days
. See also First Installment Wins
, Sophomore Slump
, Post Script Season
, and One-Hit Wonder
. If fans becomes split over this, it will lead to a Broken Base
. This will often lead to sequelitis
and/or contested sequels
. Frustration over this trope may cause Creator Backlash
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Anime and Manga
- Believed to be the reason why Rurouni Kenshin author Nobuhiro Watsuki was not (and likely will never be) able to have another series which runs longer than 10 volumes, the magic number where Busou Renkin ended publication. Gun Blaze West was cancelled after only three.
- After Neon Genesis Evangelion, Hideaki Anno tried to make "serious" films, and publicly bashed both Evangelion fans and otakus in general. He never managed to make anything as widely successful or influential as Eva, and eventually gave in and created the Rebuild of Evangelion series over a decade later.
- Saint Seiya fell victim to this. Kurumada's first runaway hit was Ring Ni Kakero, a boxing drama although with its share of Shonen elements. Saint Seiya was the closest he got, but it lost popularity and was forced to conclude with a Bittersweet Ending. A few of his works have tanked and the only series post-Kakero he was able to end on his terms was Bt X.
- Likewise, Naoko Takeuchi was less than well received after having completed Sailor Moon, and never managed to finish anything else afterwards, leaving several Orphaned Series behind.
- Yoshiyuki Tomino had this problem with Mobile Suit Gundam. He became very bitter over this, but has lightened up considerably since working on Turn A Gundam.
- Yudetamago ran into this after concluding Kinnikuman.
- Director Kazuki Akane started strong with The Vision of Escaflowne, which became wildly popular (even broadcast on Fox Kids in the United States), and remains to this day one of the most iconic anime from the 1990s. His next project was Geneshaft, which was seen by few and hated by most who did. His next creation was Heat Guy J; most who know of it know only about how much Geneon paid for it (as much as Funimation paid for Fullmetal Alchemist), and how poorly it sold. Next came Noein, which fared better in popularity and reception, but only modestly. His latest work was Birdy the Mighty: Decode, which sold very poorly in Japan.
- Tetsuo Hara never illustrated another manga series that was as wildly popular as Fist of the North Star. Hana no Keiji (a fictionalized biography of Keiji Maeda) was somewhat of a moderate success, but most of his other titles (Cyber Blue, Takeki Ryusei and Rintaro Nakabo) never managed to last more than a couple of volumes. Even Fist of the Blue Sky, a prequel to North Star set during the early 20th century, concluded in a rather lukewarm matter after the magazine that was publishing it folded and Hara went on to work on a different title.
- Akira Toriyama has created quite a few short manga since Dragon Ball, but they've barely registered on most people's radars. It might be because they're almost all single-volume series, though. He's never even attempted a long series since Dragon Ball ended, partially for fear of this trope. He does avert this trope in the video game realm, where he remains quite popular as the head artist for the cult classic games Chrono Trigger, Blue Dragon, and the Dragon Quest series. And Surverted in Japan where Dr Slump was the tough act to follow.
- Office Academy, the company behind Space Battleship Yamato, made several forgettable series such as Space Carrier Blue Noah that failed to gain recognition inside or outside of Japan, unlike Yamato.
- Quite possibly the reasoning for nothing but more Yu-Gi-Oh! from Kazuki Takahashi. And even then, his input has fallen from writing the manga (Yu-Gi-Oh!), to having major input and plot work on the anime (GX), to just doing character designs (5Ds and Zexal).
- None of Ryosuke Takahashi's works after Armored Trooper VOTOMS managed to achieve the same level of acclaim and longevity as that aforementioned series, with Yoroiden Samurai Troopers coming the closest (but even that didn't last past the early nineties). As a result, he's ended up handling most of VOTOMS' prequel and sequel OVAs.
- The HeartCatch Pretty Cure! series, considered to be one of the best seasons in the entire Pretty Cure franchise, due to its Darker and Edgier plot and having even more over-the-top fight scenes compared to its predecessors has left the few seasons after it as part of this trope.
- Pretty Cure All Stars movies get hit with this as well, as DX 3 and its over the top moments make the succeeding New Stage series lacking.
- After Sazae-san had become a huge success and the most viewed anime ever (a record which remains unbeaten to this day), Machiko Hasegawa created a new comic strip called Granny Mischief about an old woman who always spent her time creating trouble for her fellow man with all kinds of pranks. It's just as funny as Sazae-san, but never became quite as popular.
- Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha A's was a major improvement from the first series for many fans. StrikerS, however, wasn't that popular with fans because it didn't live up to the complexity and awesomeness that was A's. The manga sequels and movies have suffered from this as well.
- Bartender: According to Hanegashima, every cocktail is a Tough Act to Follow. Either you underperform, and the customer will never return, or you do your best, and your customer will come back, and expect you to do even better.
- This is probably the reason why Oda Eiichiro has said he won't do anything else after One Piece is finished.
- Following the cult success of Blood: The Last Vampire and Blood+, CLAMP is entrusted to work with Production I.G on their own version, Blood-C. However, the overall reception of the franchise is mixed, coupled with the low BD/DVD sales of the TV series and the movie being bombed in the Japanese box office despite the latter being funded by the Japanese government. This also affected CLAMP's later works.
- Gunnm Last Order is an example. The original Gunnm was a huge success; it was translated into English under the name Battle Angel Alita and became a must read manga classic for people getting into the genre. The sequel is no where near as successful and only survived mainly because of dedicated fans of the original giving it a cult following.
- Gunsmith Cats was a very popular Girls with Guns manga and did good enough to get a well made 3 episode OVA that also became very popular. The follow up Gunsmith Cats Crash, was rejected by most fans for it being just silly action with no focus on plot and character development like the original.
- Art Spiegelman when it comes to his "comix" duology Maus. He has been quite vocal about how he never expected the "monument to my father" to become so popular, nor did he expect that his later works would be greeted by wishes for Maus III.
Spiegelman: I'm proud that I did Maus; I'm glad that I did it. I don't really regret it. But the aftershock is that no matter what else I do or even most other cartoonists might do, its like, well, there’s this other thing that stands in a separate category and it has some kind of canonical status.
- Jim Starlin, who thanks to his masterful work crafting The Infinity Gauntlet, has every comic book given to him compared to it and rarely in a favorable light.
- After Kurt Busiek's historic Avengers run, Geoff Johns took over the tile, only to quickly quit and jump ship back to DC due to Executive Meddling. Chuck Austen followed Johns' run, and was widely considered to be one of the worst writers in the franchise's history. Sales fell so sharply that Marvel cancelled the book with Avengers Disassembled and allowed Brian Bendis to reboot it as New Avengers, which was a much stronger seller.
- Chris Claremont on the X-Men; only a bare handful of writers have managed to carve an identity out on the X-Books that did not have Claremont's shadow hanging over them. Similarly, everything Chris Claremont himself has done since then has been inevitably been declared not as good as his original X-Men run.
- Green Lantern has Ron Marz, who made the book a hit with the introduction of Kyle Rayner of Green Lantern. When he left the book, he was replaced with Judd Winick, whose run was so reviled that many Rayner fans blame him for sinking the sales of title and basically forcing DC to bring Hal Jordan back as Green Lantern to stop the bleeding.
- Keith Giffen and J.M. DeMatteis inevitably have every series they launch compared to their classic Justice League International run, no matter how different their new projects are. They finally got in and accepted this, as they started writing a new Justice League spin-off as part of the New 52.
- Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster never created anything that people remembered to nearly the extent of Superman. Same with Batman's creators Bob Kane and Bill Finger (who created most of Batman's traits and key characters though Kane got sole credit due to a contract stipulation).
- Cullen Bunn had the unfortunate luck of writing for Agent Venom right after Rick Remender's run, which was praised by fans and critics alike. While plenty of people liked his work on the title, it was almost universally viewed as a step down in quality and the book ended up being cancelled right in the middle of resolving it's Myth Arc.
- Christopher Priest basically redefined Black Panther in every way and to this day his run is considered by many to be the greatest book Panther has ever had. He was followed by Reginald Hudlin, who's work was immediately hit by the this trope in full force. The new volume was tolerated only as long as Hudlin was basically siphoning off Priest's work; the second he decided to go in his direction, sales crashed and the book was dead in the water in under a year. Black Panther hasn't had an ongoing of his own ever since.
- Bryan Lee O'Malley one-upping himself over Scott Pilgrim is going to be difficult to do. General consensus seems to be that he succeeded with Seconds .
Films — Animated
- The Disney Animated Canon:
- One of Walt Disney's early successes was the cartoon short The Three Little Pigs" (which featured the song "Who's Afraid Of The Big Bad Wolf?") Other follow-up cartoons with the same characters were less successful, which prompted Walt to comment, "You can't top pigs with pigs."note
- Disney suffered this after his attempts at surpassing Snow White's success with several experimental films ended in disaster in the 40'snote , not having another big hit until 1950's Cinderella gave the company the boost it needed.
- The Sword in the Stone often gets overshadowed / forgotten because of its much more well known, much more popular predecessor, 101 Dalmatians.
- The Rescuers Down Under had a very tough act to follow in The Little Mermaid and boy, did that turn out ugly (receiving mixed-to-negative reviews and flopping at the box office). Down Under is today one of Disney's obscurities, barely known by the general public (also being followed by Beauty and the Beast), although it has become a Cult Classic in its own right.
- In The Nineties, Pocahontas, The Hunchback of Notre Dame and Hercules were the three films immediately following The Lion King. These are also the three most controversial 1990s Disney Animated Canon entries, although Herc was received much better than Hunchback, and both were received better than the decidedly So Okay, It's Average Pocahontas. Mulan and Tarzan in turn were received better than Herc and Hunchback. All five, however, are usually as fondly remembered by children of The Nineties as the earlier canon installments.
- Fantasia 2000 came a whopping sixty years after Fantasia. To say this trope was fully into effect at the time of the release is putting it mildly.
- Ironically reversed in between the releases of Home on the Range and The Princess and the Frog. Range was so badly received by fans and critics alike, Princess could be nothing but spectacular compared to it.
- Big Hero 6 got hit with this from two totally different sides. Firstly, it was Disney's follow-up animated film to Frozen which had broken out the previous year to become a cultural phenomenon and the highest-grossing animated film of all time, meaning that the next Disney film was basically doomed from the beginning to languish in its shadow, no matter how good it actually was or how much money it actually made. Secondly, it was the follow-up Marvel-based film to Guardians of the Galaxy, which had dominated the latter half of summer 2014. And so despite getting a 90% Tomatometer on Rotten Tomatoes and grossing more than Tangled and Wreck-It Ralph did, Big Hero 6 became noted for deviating from the freewheeling optimism of Frozen, looking decidedly "Darker and Edgier" than most recent family films, and was considered a disappointment by Disney simply because it didn't break out the way that Frozen and Guardians did (even though it was the second highest-grossing film of 2014 not based on a popular property). Its opening weekend was considered so unremarkable that the Hollywood trades didn't even focus on Big Hero 6 taking the #1 spot in the U.S., but rather on Christopher Nolan's hugely-anticipated Interstellar "embarrasingly" taking the #2 spot behind a Disney cartoon.
- Lee Unkrich admitted to waking up physically ill from worry while directing Toy Story 3, afraid he would screw up the series. He turned out to be wrong, as the third film was warmly accepted by the fans and critics alike.
- Unfortunately, that warm response has made Toy Story 3 this for Pixar; their next film, Cars 2, was the company's first outright failure with critics, while Monsters University and the Cars spin-off Planes have also received mixed-to-negative notices (with Brave being the studio's lone standout of the period), suggesting the company's fallen into a rut, as demonstrated by the fact Planes got a sequel one year after its release. (While Brave did win the Best Animated Feature Oscar for 2012, it was a surprise win over Disney's Wreck-It Ralph.)
- And now that Toy Story 4 has officially been announced for 2017, this trope is coming full into effect for the franchise as well, with moviegoers wondering how a fourth film could possibly top the third.
- Pixar's rivals at Dreamworks are also liable to suffer this as well:
- Shark Tale came out just after Shrek 2 became a smash. The film's attempt into a more mature story (the death of an instrumental character) didn't tune in with either audiences nor critics, and was received much less favorably. It didn't help that the studio's following film, Madagascar would become wildly popular.
- Monsters vs. Aliens was a milder version, as it was sandwiched between Kung Fu Panda and How to Train Your Dragon, with both becoming notable for marking Dreamworks' turn into more story-based films.
- Also downplayed with Mr. Peabody & Sherman, as it was released just after Frozen and, to a lesser extent, The Lego Movie became cultural phenomenons in early 2014: In spite of its low-budget, it was directed by Rob Minkoff, had a score by Danny Elfman and featured noted Amercan and British actors in bit roles. While the film proved popular with critics and audiences, the franchise's obscurity hindered its box office performance, becoming a moderate hit, and DW's second lowest-grossing CG movienote .
- Penguins of Madagascar had the same fate: It was released after How to Train Your Dragon 2 and put on the lucrative holiday season. However, as the Penguins TV show was no longer the juggernaut it was in the early 2010s, the movie became an important disappointment in spite of its positive reviews, and the studio resorted to tie-ins to save face. The issue got so far that it undermined Dreamworks' nominations at the Oscars.
Films — Live-Action
- Actor turned director Richard Attenborough's greatest achievement was his Magnum Opus Gandhi. His next film right after Gandhi was the much maligned film version of A Chorus Line. His subsequent efforts though better received included biopic Chaplin starring Robert Downey Jr. (which got him his first Oscar nomination), Shadowlands starring Anthony Hopkins as C.S. Lewis, and Grey Owl starring Pierce Brosnan never had the same level success. He found better success returning to acting in films like Jurassic Park and the remake of Miracle on 34th Street.
- Roberto Benigni directed the film Life Is Beautiful, which netted him several Oscars. His next film, a big budget adaptation of Pinocchio, was a massive flop with a terrible English dub and a truly ludicrous case of Dawson Casting.
- After Easy Rider the studio gave Dennis Hopper carte blanche. The result: The Last Movie, which was once considered to be one of the 50 worst movies of all time. Hopper's later films were mostly duds, although Colors became both a critical and financial success and The Hot Spot has been Vindicated by History.
- Director Michael Cimino had an unbroken string of hits starting with Silent Running, and continuing through Magnum Force, Thunderbolt and Lightfoot, and The Deer Hunter (for which he won two Oscars). As a result, United Artists gave him free rein on his next picture. The result was the Western Heaven's Gate, a film that lost so much money it effectively bankrupted United Artists and killed Cimino's career as a big studio movie director. It also killed off the entire notion of a director's creative control in Hollywood.
: This is a horrendous movie which highlights the express elevator to rock bottom in the career of Michael Cimino. With each passing movie his potential and talent just go down down down. There was a time when I only had seen
Deer Hunter and I pondered to myself how someone like this could never get another hit again. Well, I now know and it was a brutal lesson to learn.
- Judd Apatow's Funny People came on the heels of Knocked Up; one of the highest grossing R-rated movies of all time, and one of the most critically acclaimed of 2007. Funny People got mixed reviews, and nearly completely fell out of the top ten within a few weeks of its opening.
- Mel Brooks followed up his musical version of The Producers, which ran for six years on Broadway and set a record for Tony Award wins, with a Young Frankenstein musical that brought back Susan Stroman as director-choreographer and Thomas Meehan as co-writer on the book. Despite huge anticipation and ticket prices that topped out at $450 for the very best seats, it was dismissed as unable to live up to its source material and its stage predecessor by critics, was mostly ignored when it came to Tony nominations and won none of the three it received, and only ran for 15 months (counting previews).
- Richard Kelly started his career with the cult-favorite Donnie Darko. His next big move: Southland Tales, which did so terribly with both critics and the public that Hollywood ran his Auteur License through a shredder. (Film/Domino came before Southland, but Kelly was only screenwriter on it, not director.)
- In 2002, Rob Marshall directed Chicago which was a smash-hit and the first musical in over thirty years to win the Best Picture Academy Award. His next musical, 9, was a critical and financial disaster which failed to win any of the four Oscars it was up for.
- After the incredible success of Deliverance, John Boorman was given free rein to make the movie he always dreamed of making. The result? Zardoz.
- One for Adventureland that noted that many directors follow up a mainstream success with a more ambitious, personal movie that fails to find an audience, which sadly did end up happening to Adventureland. It was directed by Greg Mottola, who also directed Superbad. Mottola himself expected this to happen.
- Alien is one of the best horror films of all time. Aliens is one of the best action films of all time. Alienł, while a pretty severely flawed film, probably gets more flak than it deserves because of this trope.
- Olivier Dahan decided to follow-up La Vie en Rose (which won Marion Cotillard an Oscar) with My Own Love Song. The resulting film was a complete mess that badly tries to combine country music with the supernatural and was destroyed by critics at its festival screenings. The final movie got dropped by two different distributors (Fox and Lionsgate) and was quietly sent straight-to-DVD (even with Renee Zellweger, Forest Whitaker and Nick Nolte starring).
- The Thing (1982) is constantly looked at as one of the greatest sci-fi/horror films of all time. Its prequel, The Thing (2011), could never hope to live up to this. Sad really.
- Since The Sixth Sense, M. Night Shyamalan has been trying to replicate his success with low-key supernatural horror and the Twist Ending. So far, each film has had a progressively worse critical reception overall, to the point that now Shyamalan's name attached to any project seems to be a kiss of death.
- Star Wars: Return of the Jedi is often derided for not being as good as the fan favorite The Empire Strikes Back. The prequels get enormous amounts of hate simply over being not as good as the original trilogy.
- Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull fell flat in part due to comparisons to the original trilogy.
- Orson Welles never had a prayer of producing another film that would live up to the reputation Citizen Kane enjoyed, although this is partly because he was never again allowed the degree of creative control he had with Kane. A later Welles film, Touch of Evil, is nowadays regarded by critics as a great artistic work, though it's nowhere near as well known to the public at large as Kane is. The Magnificent Ambersons is regarded as almost as good, but the "almost" wasn't Welles' fault; it was RKO's for destroying the original ending and tacking on a new one.
- Most of Quentin Tarantino's films have been financial and critical successes, but none of them will probably ever top his first major release, Pulp Fiction, at least in terms of mainstream reinvention of the medium.
- Tobe Hooper never was able to replicate the success of The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974) as well as his subsequent films. The closest he ever came was probably Poltergeist, but the involvement of executive producer Steven Spielberg overshadowed Hooper's work.
- Austrian actress Luise Rainer won the Best Actress Oscar twice in a row in 1937 and 1938, (a feat repeated only by Katharine Hepburn). She once said about her awards that nothing worse could have happened to her, as audience expectations from then on would be too high to fulfill. Her career waned at the end of the 1930s, and she retired in 1943.
- Donald Cammell spent his career trying to make another film as well-received as his debut, Performance (co-directed by Nicolas Roeg). He eventually committed suicide after dealing with Executive Meddling one too many times.
- Christopher Nolan has expressed anxiety over the prospects of the third film in the The Dark Knight Saga, noting that after the massive accolades The Dark Knight received it will be difficult to write a satisfying follow-up, and pointing out "how many good third parts in a franchise can you think of?" And of course, some Critical Backlash occurred for The Dark Knight Rises, given how high the stakes were set by its predecessor. There's also the fact that Nolan's last film would be a tough act to follow up on as well.
- Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan had it all: an edge-of-your-seat plot, tremendous music, fantastic (for its time) visual effects, literary references galore, a true Tear Jerker ending, and great timeless themes interspersed throughout. With every new movie since, they've been trying to measure up to that - and frequently fell short. Although the 2009 reboot ended up dethroning II as the best-reviewed Trek film on Rotten Tomatoes. For many people, the same has been true of Star Trek Into Darkness when compared to the 2009 film.
- Canadian filmmaker Michael McGowan built credit on the performance of his films Saint Ralph and One Week. Soon after, he was given the freedom to pursue a passion project - a comedy-musical about a homegrown hockey player who makes it to the big leagues. The resulting film, Score: A Hockey Musical, featured a who's who of Canadian singers and character actors, backing from Canadian production houses/government funding and a selection of up-and-coming Canadian talent. Unfortunately, the film flopped (making just $200,000 on a $5.3 million budget), was thoroughly trashed by Canadian critics and audiences (even those who liked the concept of a hockey-themed musical), and put a damper on McGowan's career just as it started.
- John Singleton's directorial debut Boyz n the Hood was critically acclaimed, and made him the youngest Academy Award nominee for Best Director at the age of 24. Twenty years later, it's still regarded his best work.
- This is definitely one interpretation of The Godfather Part III. When you're making a sequel to two films that are almost universally regarded as absolute masterpieces, whatever you make is highly likely to not live up to its predecessors, even if it's a good film in its own right, which a lot of people regard Part III as.
- Hans Zimmer had really, really big shoes to fill as the composer for Man of Steel, because the theme of Superman: The Movie is one of the greatest movie themes of all time and is undeniably the theme of the Superman franchise. In fact, Zimmer initially stated that he wasn't scoring Man of Steel for this reason, but it was confirmed later that he was scoring MoS. Any actor playing the Man of Steel will be measured against Christopher Reeve, a truly daunting high standard of acting excellence and sincere charm.
- Brüno, Sacha Baron Cohen's follow-up to Borat, didn't get anywhere near as positive a reaction as Borat at the box office. While it opened as big, its second weekend fell a staggering amount (nearly 75%) to a single-digit-million-take after pulling north of $30 million the week before.
- Cracked's "5 Works of Art So Good, They Ruined Their Whole Genre" calls 2001: A Space Odyssey, Fight Club, and Animal House tough acts to follow in their respective genres.
- Golden Eye, Pierce Brosnan's debut as James Bond, simply was so phenomenal that his subsequent movies could not live up to its high standards. Then again, GoldenEye was the film that revived the franchise after years of Development Hell.
- Peter O'Toole holds the record for being nominated the most times (8) for an Academy Award without winning. A contribution to this is without a doubt that his first nomination was for Lawrence of Arabia, his most iconic role, where he lost to Gregory Peck for To Kill a Mockingbird (see further below) as Atticus Finch (his most iconic role). It was simply the case of one being the veteran and the other never having done a film before. While he has been a great actor, Lawrence is of course what he will be remembered as.
- Iron Man 3 hasn't gotten as overwhelmingly positive a critical reception as Iron Man's previous cinematic endeavor, the crossover The Avengers. However, it received much better reviews than Iron Man 2, and was the highest grossing film in the Iron Man series, as well as the second highest grossing film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
- For the Marvel Cinematic Universe in general, the magnum opus of the series is often considered to either be Iron Man (the very first movie to be released), or The Avengers (which connected all the movies in the series together). It is generally considered that no movie was able to compare to either of the two until Captain America: The Winter Soldier came out.
- The Winter Soldier was expected to be this for Guardians of the Galaxy, only for that film to be considered as good as or even better than The Winter Soldier by critics and fans alike. Its worldwide box office gross gradually surpassed that of Winter Soldier. Many are now worried that the long-anticipated sequel to The Avengers, Avengers: Age of Ultron, will suffer from its predecessors' success.
- Paper Moon was this for director Peter Bogdanovich. His next three films were critical and commercial failures. No other film he made after was nearly as successful until Mask, which was released 12 years later, and he hasn't had another one since.
- Given that Neill Blomkamp's debut film was District 9, this reaction was kind of inevitable, unfortunately. While many praise Elysium for its effects and Sharlto Copley's performance as Kruger, quite a few thought that the social commentary and the overall character development paled in comparison to Blomkamp's debut film.
- The second movie Mel Brooks directed, an adaptation of The Twelve Chairs starring Ron Moody, Frank Langella, and Dom Deluise, hasn't left nearly as strong an impact on pop culture as The Producers has. Fans could make a similar comparison between Young Frankenstein and Silent Movie, although at least they both more money than The Twelve Chairs did.
- Kevin Smith followed up Clerks, a Generation X comedy masterpiece, with Mallrats. While it's since been Vindicated by History and recognized as a pretty entertaining film in its own right, Mallrats was initially seen as a Sophomore Slump for Smith, subject to a lot of unfair comparisons to Clerks, to the point where Smith gave a mock-apology for it at the 1996 Independent Spirit Awards. It didn't help that, at the time, it was a Box Office Bomb that nearly bankrupted distributor Gramercy Pictures. He's said multiple times the film "hangs over [his] whole career."
- While The Amazing Spider-Man Series has a good deal of fans, it does have one major case of this within itself with J.K. Simmons' iconic performance as J. Jonah Jameson in Sam Raimi's Spider-Man films. It dealt with this by turning the character into The Ghost.
- After Behind Enemy Lines, many of John Moore's movies didn't do well with critics.
- After the success of The Office, creators Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant actively parodied/dared people to invoke this trope in the lead-up and advertising for their next series Extras, which was essentially billed as "the show people are already calling 'the disappointing follow-up to The Office." Although Extras was largely praised as being just as good as their original series, comments of this nature could still nevertheless be heard from time to time.
- On Saturday Night Live, when Norm MacDonald was fired in the midst of a mild controversy, Colin Quinn's first episode as the Weekend Update anchor acknowledged this trope essentially saying "don't shoot the new guy."
- Everyone's favorite Doctor is a tough act to follow (not to name names; you know where the bases are broken.)
- Some purists also apply this trope to the Modern Era (2005 onwards) versus the Classic Era (1963-1989). Certainly in terms of longevity the revival is unlikely to equal the original, although at eight seasons (as of 2014) it has already run longer than most English-language sci-fi series.
- Leaving aside matters of quality, personal preference or favouritism, Tom Baker cast a long shadow over many of his successors in the role for the simple reason that, at seven years, he's still the actor who played the part on television the longest (although many of his successors have overtaken him when it comes to Big Finish), and thus his interpretation of the Doctor for better or worse became the one that much of the general public associated with the role. Even today, Baker's Doctor is still arguably the one many people associate with the classic series when it's brought up — perhaps notably, he was the only living pre-2005 Doctor to appear in person in the 50th anniversary special rather than just as part of stock footage.
- Chris Carter is a variant of this trope. He tried three different times to premiere new shows while his most famous show, and ultimately the only one that's remembered, The X-Files, was on the air. These shows are: Millennium, a conspiracy show in a similar vein as The X-Files minus the paranormal angle; The Lone Gunmen, a spin-off of The X-Files featuring three of its most popular supporting characters; and Harsh Realm, a critically derided effort featuring characters trapped in a virtual reality. All three featured an attempt at crafting a Myth Arc much like that of The X-Files but all three failed to catch on and lasted less than one season (with the exception of Millenium which lasted 3, with the show being retooled beyond recognition each season). Millenium and The Lone Gunmen both received Fully Absorbed Finales on The X-Files and neither is remember as fondly. Harsh Realm on the other hand is almost not remembered at all. Since The X-Files' conclusion, Carter, who was once a well-known show runner on the same level as Joss Whedon, has mostly faded into obscurity, coming out of semi-retirement to write and direct an X-Files film which was not well received and failing (or possibly not attempting) to get any other series or films off the ground as of 2011.
- Brit comedian Tony Hancock apparently sunk into a deep depression after his famous Blood Donor sketch. Most people couldn't understand why this could be, given how brilliant the sketch had been, but it was apparently because Hancock believed he would never ever top it.
- It didn't help that he'd been the passenger in a car involved in a road traffic accident that same week. The reminder of his mortality seems to have had a very bad effect on him, in particular it probably contributed to his decision to split from writers Galton & Simpson, which in retrospect is recognised as a bad move.
- The Super Sentai series experienced this throughout the early and mid 90's—Choujin Sentai Jetman was so immensely popular, that nearly every season that came after it in the next 9 years was seen as a huge step down (although Gosei Sentai Dairanger has been Vindicated by History as being a spectacular season in its own right). In 2000, when Mirai Sentai Timeranger began airing, the Jetman hype had finally died down, and even the hardcore Jetman fanbase was satisfied with Timerangers drama and story rivaling Jetman's.
- General consensus was that Zyuranger and to a lesser extent Kakuranger were the only ones affected. Dairanger was an awesome series in its own right, and the other series were no slouches either (except for Ohranger, but it was because of other factors).
- Played straight, however, by Tensou Sentai Goseiger, coming immediately after the dripping-with-awesome Samurai Sentai Shinkenger. It doesn't help matters that Kaizoku Sentai Gokaiger came after it. Tokumei Sentai Go-Busters got exactly the same position, coming right off of the immense success that was Gokaiger. And if that wasn't enough, Shinkenger and Go-Busters were both written by Yasuko Kobayashi, and the latter show kept being compared to her earlier work.
- There's the infamous "Seinfeld Curse" that allegedly prevents any of Seinfeld's four main cast members from achieving future success:
- Jason Alexander had two failed sitcoms, Listen Up and Bob Patterson. He's consistently found supporting work in various movies and TV shows but is always seen as George Costanza, a fact he disdains so much that as of 2011 he started wearing a hairpiece to open up his acting opportunities.
- A bigger victim is Michael Richards (Kramer), who basically retired from acting after The Michael Richards Show failed to catch on in 2000 because the main character was turned into a cheap Kramer clone thanks to Executive Meddling and Richards almost completely destroyed his reputation in 2006 when he hurled racial slurs at a heckler during his stand-up act. In the 12 years since The Michael Richards Show Richards has only returned to acting for a voice part in the Jerry Seinfeld written Bee Movie and an appearance as himself on co-creator Larry David's Curb Your Enthusiasm.
- With Julia Louis-Dreyfus having won a total of 4 Emmys in the 15+ years since Seinfeld's conclusion on 2 different shows that have each lasted for multiple seasons (not to mention headlining Nicole Holofcener's well-received film Enough Said opposite James Gandolfini), it's agreed upon that Julia more than shattered the curse.
- Jerry Seinfeld himself largely sidestepped this, returning to stand-up and only doing the occasional one-off voice acting job.
- Co-creator Larry David subverted this when his film Sour Grapes bombed critically and commercially but his second series Curb Your Enthusiasm became a hit in its own right.
- A similar fate has affected the actors of Friends after the show ended:
- Keeping with the Sentai trend, Power Rangers Samurai. The show isn't without its faults, but the series would have likely been better received had it not been adapted from Samurai Sentai Shinkenger (a very well-received Sentai) and following Power Rangers RPM (considered one of—if not the—best season that Power Rangers has ever done). Similar things could be said about Wild Force coming behind Time Force, and Turbo never stood a chance after Zeo. To varying extents, this could be said of every series set after Power Rangers in Space, which not only managed to Win Back the Crowd after Turbo's lukewarm reception, but was the Grand Finale of a Story Arc starting with the original Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers (in Space was originally going to be the last Rangers season, so it needed to end with a bang). As all subsequent seasons are (mostly) self-contained, standalone works with only about 30 episodes to develop character and whatnot, they tend to fall short of a saga that had a six season buildup and was more or less at the apex of the Cerebus Rollercoaster by its end.
- The Oprah Winfrey Show enjoyed reverence, and ended partly because Oprah felt that she couldn't top herself. However, Oprah's television network is struggling.
- Star Trek: The Next Generation managed to step out of the shadow of the original show and Star Trek: Deep Space Nine managed to grow its own beard about the time TNG concluded. Voyager and Enterprise are overshadowed by comparison, especially for trying to use the original formula after much of the fandom had jumped ship for Star Trek: Deep Space Nine's heavier and more intricate arc-based storytelling.
- The Prisoner: Actor Patrick McGoohan actually left the UK shortly after the controversial final episode aired and settled in the US, and his only television series since then (Rafferty) has been long forgotten except by die-hard cult fans. He did have some sporadic success in the US, notably when working with Peter Falk on some Emmy-winning episodes of Columbo but The Prisoner completely overshadows all his other work. (Indeed, one of his Columbo episodes was essentially a riff on The Prisoner, and a film he starred in called Kings and Desperate Men not only was directed by and co-starred one of his Prisoner actors, but it revisited many of the earlier show's themes.)
- James Gandolfini worked pretty consistently after completing The Sopranos, taking several parts before his death in 2013 that helped subvert his mobster persona, such as the General in In the Loop, Leon Panetta in Zero Dark Thirty, a grieving husband and father in Welcome to the Rileys, and a Gentle Giant love interest to Julia Louis-Dreyfus in Enough Said. That said, none of his roles matched up to the public ubiquity of Tony Soprano in popular culture.
- The Shield writer Shawn Ryan's career has staggered (his follow-up shows The Chicago Code and Terriers and his time working as show-runner of Lie To Me were largely ignored by most).
- Dan Schneider has made some of Nickelodeon's most well-known and popular successes, like Drake & Josh, Zoey 101 and iCarly. His 2010 creation, Victorious, on the other hand, has been panned by quite a few fans of the former works (especially iCarly considering the shows ran alongside each other for a while) for not being what they were. The fact that the show was constantly promoted by the iCarly cast doesn't help either (because non-fans of Victorious found that infuriating). While most fans of Dan's past works liked it, even part of those fans felt that the second season was significantly lower quality than the first, but the third season rattled the line between being better than ever and even worse. The show ultimately met its untimely end after the third season's filming. The show did win Favorite TV Show at the 2013 Kids Choice Awards, however, which was the second year in running, so it didn't end on a completely bad note.
- Sam & Cat, which is what Victorious was reportedly canned for, has been received worse than the former. It did win at the 2014 Kids' Choice Awards which made sense being it was the only Nick show nominated (compared to the Victorious/iCarly wars of years' past), and was riding on Ariana Grande's huge popularity, so its win was justified.
- The Wire is regarded by many TV critics as one of, if not the, best television show ever made. David Simon's follow-up, Treme has been chugging along in relative obscurity, which is admittedly what The Wire did for most of its run as well. Within the run of the series itself, there are many who cite the fourth season as one of, if not THE greatest season in all of television. By contrast, quite a number of fans and critics complained that the fifth (and final) season was hindered by Simon hanging his dirty laundry out to dry (particularly regarding its criticism of journalism, which echoed Simon's real life feelings on the Baltimore Sun). Luckily, those critics still cite the series finale as among the greatest episodes the show had done, so the show was still able to finish on a high note.
- David Milch hit big with Deadwood, which achieved a lot of cultural saturation in spite of not being a ratings powerhouse. Neither of Milch's follow-up series, John from Cincinnati and Luck, made it to a second season.
- The fifth season of 24 was universally acclaimed and managed to net the series the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Drama. Season six however, suffered from poor writing and is easily regarded as one of the worst of the show, with the , with the biggest problem coming from the writers trying to find a way to top season five's shocks early on, only to run out of steam immediately after that. Seasons 7 and/or 8, depending on who you ask, either improved the series after the sixth season slump or marked when the show officially Jumped the Shark, but its clear that both of them wound up living in the fifth season's shadow as well.
- With Breaking Bad already going down as one of the greatest series in television history, with many critics even going so far as to call it the modern Shakespearean tragedy, and having ended in a blaze of glory, both critically and commercially, its creator, Vince Gilligan, has already resigned himself to the fact that he will likely NEVER hit the same level again.
- This came up within the series itself. The third to last episode of the series, "Ozymandias" is almost universally regarded as both the best episode of the series and one of the best episodes ever aired on television. The two final episodes of the series are widely regarded as superb in their own right and an excellent ending to the series, but many feel that they suffered a little, for no other reason than being forced to follow the universal praise for "Ozymandias".
- It was unlikely The Thin Blue Line was ever going to be better than Ben Elton and Rowan Atkinson's previous work on Blackadder.
- When Bob Barker retired as host of The Price Is Right in 2007, his successor Drew Carey quickly fell under this trope — possibly because Carey was taking the reins of the longest-running daytime game show ever, despite Whose Line Is It Anyway? being the closest he ever done to a game show beforehandnote . Granted, Bob had hosted for a whopping 35 years (and had hosted Truth or Consequences for 19 years on top of that), so just about anyone would have had a tough time following Barker.
- When the 2014 version of Cosmos was first announced, the makers cited this trope directly with regards to the 1980 original.
- In 1984, Doctor Who premiered "The Caves of Androzani", Peter Davison's final story as the Fifth Doctor. It was an unexpected critical success widely heralded as a fan favorite ever since its premiere. However, producers wanted to capitalize on the hype for the next actor who would play the Doctor, Colin Baker, by airing his first story right after Davison's last. This put him in a very unfavorable position, as he had no time for the Sixth Doctor's character to be scripted attentively, and what resulted... was for lack of a better word, a trainwreck. With a hastily written story and little time for audiences to be let down from the initial excitement of Caves, "The Twin Dilemma" hobbled onto the screen... and the reaction from audiences was not pretty.
- Monty Python's Flying Circus was such a revolutionary show that changed comedy altogether that the main cast members have consciously done more conventional comedy stuff afterwards. Many other alternative sketch comedy shows have tried to imitate Monty Python, but still pale in comparison to the anticommercial risks the Pythons took. Some comedians have even thrown ideas away because they were too Pythonesque in nature.
- The Colbert Report, was such a major television program that since it ended its run in December 2014, there has been concern over whether its successor series, The Nightly Show, another spinoff of The Daily Show premiering in January 2015, can match up to it.
- Considering Better Call Saul is a Spinoff of what is sometimes considered to be the greatest TV series of all time, which is also considered to have ended nearly perfectly, this is a given. However, even with that over its head, the general consensus thus far is that it is great in its own right, though admittedly not as brilliant as its predecessor.
- Though they were both as funny as their predecessor, neither one of Berkeley Breathed's post-Bloom County comics—Outland and Opus—had the same wide circulation and notability that Bloom County enjoyed in its heyday.
- Most of Pat Lawlor's pins after The Addams Family and The Twilight Zone are unfairly dismissed by players just because they fail (or are perceived to fail) to live up to the lofty standards set by those two blockbusters.
- Any team that was led to success by a standout athlete has trouble after he goes away - best example being the Michael Jordan-less Chicago Bulls.
- Or the Denver Broncos without John Elway. It's actually eerie how similar those two turned out: Jordan was universally regarded as basketball's greatest player, while Elway was a top class quarterback. Both retired in 1999 after winning championships, and neither team has truly recovered. (Of course, Jordan came back with another team, but we prefer to not think about that)
- Another would be the 49ers without Jerry Rice or Montana.
- In some ways this can be subverted, for instance Kobe Bryant is just as beloved as Magic Johnson. How? Because he has a completely different playing style and personality. Same for Larry Bird and Bill Russell. Of course, they all have championship rings too, which helps.
- In Formula One, Ferrari after Michael Schumacher. Or any other team.
- Schumacher's career after he returned to the sport after retirement. The most race wins in Formula One history, most driver championships and all around legendary. Naturally it would be impossible for him to live up to his own record since he hadn't raced in F1 for a number of years and he wasn't in a team as good as Ferrari. Initially he got some flack (which everybody noted for being unreasonable) for not being his "old self" but his post-retirement career has been respectable. Fortunately, this made Kimi Raikkonen's return to the sport easier as people accepted that they couldn't expect too much - his post-retirement career has been equally respectable.
- In Brazil, anyone after Senna - Rubens Barrichello in particular got some flack from being the new Brazilian driver but unlike Senna not having his prowess, powerful car or luck, until, that is, he pulled the proverbial rabbit out of his hat by beating The Stig!
- In the UK this has an odd occurrence, having produced so many successful drivers means that not one of them is overwhelmingly considered to be the greatest (Moss, Clark, Stewart, Hill and Mansell all being equally well regarded for example) but the commentary partnership of Murray Walker and James Hunt (or Martin Brundle) and the BBC's use of "The Chain" as the theme song for the coverage are so etched into the public mind that any other suggestions will always be compared to that.
- Every Brazilian National Football (Soccer) Team after the Pelé-led team of 1970. Teams of 1982 and 2002 have come close.
- Also in soccer: the USA women's national team after the groundbreaking World Cup champions of 1999. Despite four Olympic golds since then, the current women still haven't gotten out from under the shadow of the 1999 team. The 2011 World Cup team came close, but lost to Japan in the final.
- English examples. Englands 1966 World Cup winning squad. Liverpool in the 1980's (They have not won a league title since 1990!) Manchester United's 1999 Treble winning side, Arsenal's Invincibles from 2004.
- The New York Yankees will never be as loved as when they had Babe Ruth. They probably will never even be as loved as when they had Mickey Mantle. Feared, yes...
- Bill Mazeroski, the Hall of Fame second baseman for the Pittsburgh Pirates, called his walk-off home run to win the 1960 World Series to complete an upset of the Yankees "a curse in disguise." He was never a prolific hitter, and outside of Pirates fans, people saw only that home run, not realizing he is the best defensive second baseman to have ever played the game.
- Roger Maris, after breaking Babe Ruth's single season record for home runs claimed the rest of his career would have been "a helluva lot more fun" had he never done that.
- Any league with a salary cap essentially forces this as any team with a surprisingly good year is forced to get rid of half their players since they're now demanding pay raises, especially if they win the championship. Aversions happen in teams that are centered around a few key players or have excellent general managers.
- Any sensational record in any sports.
- At the 1968 Summer Olympics, Bob Beamon set a world record for the long jump with a jump of 8.90 m. Prior to this, the world record had been broken thirteen times since 1901, with an average increase of 6 cm; Beamon's jump bettered the existing record by 55 cm. The defending Olympic champion, Lynn Davies told Beamon, "You have destroyed this event." The record stood until 1991. Beamon himself never won another Olympic medal.
- The absolutely daunting task that any future Olympic Games swimmer will have to face if they try to defeat Michael Phelps' record in Beijing 2008 of winning 8 gold medals in a single Olympics.
- And as of London 2012, with a grand total of 22 medals (18 gold, 2 silver, and 2 bronze) to his name, Phelps is the most decorated Olympian EVER in any event.
- As for personal tough acts to follow, quintuple Olympic ski jumping champion Matti Nykänen is a particularly sad case - not only did his sports career plummet with his failure in adopting the modern V style, so did his life. From The Other Wiki: since the 1990s, his status as a celebrity has mainly been fuelled (...) by his colourful personal relationships, his "career" as a "singer," and various incidents often related to heavy use of alcohol and violent behaviour.
- Brett Favre, after signing with the Minnesota Vikings, had the best season of his carrer, almost taking the team to the Super Bowl. The second season with them...well...
- When Andy Roddick won his first Grand Slam and became the World No. 1 in 2003, he was expected to continue the dominant American Tennis tradition on the heels of Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi. Unfortunately, Roger Federer shot to the top of the tennis world soon after and Roddick would never again win a Slam or hold the No. 1 position, but it's a sure bet that even if Federer hadn't been around to beat Roddick in four Slam finals, he would still have been doomed to fall short of Sampras's 14 Slams and Agassi's 8 in spite of being good enough to be included in the Tennis Channel's list of top 100 players.
- In 2012, Novak Djokovic won one Grand Slam, the year-end championships, a total of six titles, and finished the year as No. 1, which would qualify as an incredible season by any reasonable standard — but since this came right after his otherworldly 2011 season in which he won three Grand Slams and went undefeated for over 40 matches, the general consensus of his 2012 season was that it was "good, but not as good as his 2011 season."
- The 70s dynasty of the "Steel Curtain" Pittsburgh Steelers is not only hard to follow for the franchise itself, but also for most teams in the NFL, even the ones that succeeded in creating Super Bowl winning dynasties themselves.
- It's common in season previews to treat the last champion that retained its core players with "anything less than a repeat will be a disappointment for fans".
- Gilbert and Sullivan struggled with this after the mega-hit, The Mikado. Gilbert darkly suggested renaming their next operetta, Ruddigore, to Kensington Gore: Or, Not Quite So Good as The Mikado. Ruddigore was erroneously considered a flop in Gilbert's lifetime (the original run of Ruddigore was 288 performances, good by any standard except comparison to the 672 performances in the original run of The Mikado); Special Effect Failure on its opening night may have contributed to its underwhelming reception. 20th century revivals restored the work's reputation.
- Meredith Willson's first Broadway musical, The Music Man, achieved great popular and critical success. Of his three subsequent musicals, each was less successful and less distinguished than the previous one, with his final show (1491) closing before reaching Broadway.
- Mitch Leigh had an even worse record: all the musicals he wrote after Man of La Mancha were atrocious flops.
- Pietro Mascagni, whose fame rests on his debut Cavalleria Rusticana, went on to compose another 14 operas. All are forgotten by the time of his death. It is especially lamentable because, as the rare revivals attest, some of these works (like Iris and Il piccolo Marat) show great artistic vision and experimentation. But sorry, the public is looking for another Cav.
- The Phantom of the Opera is this for Andrew Lloyd Webber — while several of his subsequent shows did decent/fine business in his native England (Sunset Boulevard also did well in the U.S.), he's never had another international sensation along the lines of Evita, Cats, Starlight Express, or Phantom. In 2010 he brought out a sequel to Phantom, Love Never Dies, but its reception has been extremely mixed.
- For Lerner and Loewe, one reason Camelot disappointed so many people was that it was their follow-up to the sensation that was My Fair Lady.
- Boublil and Schonberg followed up Les Misérables with Miss Saigon, a critical and popular smash that introduced the world to a seventeen-year-old Filipina phenom named Lea Salonga. But not even Miss Saigon can top the longest-running, best-written, best-loved, best-known, and quite possibly best musical ever produced. Interestingly, Les Mis is so good that no one really cares what Boublil and Schonberg have gotten up to since - they wrote Les Mis and are therefore entitled to write whatever else they damn please.
- Even though Stephen Schwartz was well known at the time, this could almost be said to apply to Wicked. Nothing he did before it even comes close to Wicked 's level of popularity and revivals of some of his older work (notably Godspell which is returning to Broadway) now carry the advertisement: "From the creator of Wicked" (with occasionally Pippin being mentioned as an afterthought).
- The story of BIONICLE was so, well, huge, that its successor line Hero Factory gets a considerable amount of hate for its bare-bones, simple-to-follow plot and minimalistic characterization. Complainers tend to overlook the fact that even so, HF's story is still a tad more complex than that of an average, non-licensed LEGO line, and its characters are among the most developed of any original-LEGO characters (if still far from Bionicle's). LEGO themselves consider HF a wholly separate entity — a line that occupies the same niche as Bionicle, but it's not a follow-up. Further, they deliberately set out to avoid creating another complicated universe such as that of Bionicle, partly because of this trope, but mostly because a simpler story is easier to promote to younger kids, which the Periphery Demographic has a hard time realizing.
- Rayman 3: Hoodlum Havoc is not called a bad game, but considering it was a follow-up to one of the most critically acclaimed, best-selling 3-D platformers of all time, being what is considered the Magnum Opus of UbiSoft, its critical reception and sales did not live up to the previous game. Some have speculated that Rayman 3's underwhelming performance was why Rayman 4 was retooled from another 3-D platformer into the mini-game centric Rayman Raving Rabbids, as well as why another Rayman platformer was put on ice for years until Rayman Origins came around.
- While still being good, Generation 3 of Pokémon had to follow up Generation 2, which is widely regarded as the best in the series (until their Generation 4 remakes). The fact that they downplayed the time factor and the exclusion of many Pokémon didn't help matters either. Generation 5 is said to be a new tough act to follow as well.
- Generation 5 had a hard time following itself. Pokémon Black 2 and White 2, despite introducing loads of new features, were also received partly unfavorably by both critics and the fans for not being what Pokémon Black and White were (lacking the story that what made the original games, and traces of difficulty).
- On a similar note, the Pokemon Mystery Dungeon series has been highly regarded for its story and gameplay elements that variate from the main series. However, the 3DS installment Gates to Infinity has also received quite a bit of panning from fans for not being what the first two were; most complaints being in regards to the story (Which is considered by most to be weaker then Explorers) and the small number of Pokemon available as starter/partner choices and for recruitment.
- Generation 6 has it tougher than Black and White. While the plot isn't bad by any means, it didn't stand a chance compared to Black and White, which are widely agreed to have had the best plot of the series. The fact that the game introduced about 70 Pokémon, the least of any generation, was also all the more noticeable proceeding Gen 5, which introduced over 150, the most of any generation.
- Chrono Cross was cursed from the beginning to never be as popular as Chrono Trigger, one of the most beloved games ever made.
- Games designer Will Wright seems to be heading in this direction, considering the general reaction to his latest game, Spore (along with later entries to the SimCity franchise), hasn't been nearly as warm as with his seminal masterpiece, The Sims. The quote from Yahtzee up top is from Zero Punctuation's review of Spore.
- Apparently, Hideo Kojima regrets being remembered only for the Metal Gear series, which overshadowed his earlier games and whose shadow looms on every possible future title.
- Final Fantasy:
- The fandom is "divided," but it's probably safe to say that Final Fantasy VIII didn't live up to what was expected after Final Fantasy VII. Whether or not Final Fantasy VII lived up to what was expected after Final Fantasy VI is the source of many flame wars.
- There is also a Broken Base regarding Final Fantasy V didn't live up to what was expected after Final Fantasy IV, which is considered one of the top games in the series, because of its characters and heightened drama typical to many other games of the series. All of which many fans felt the fifth installment of the series lacked. Other fans on the other hand felt that the game featured some of the best gameplay in the series, period, thanks to the evolved job system, that has served as the basis for that of three spinoff titles, Final Fantasy Tactics, Final Fantasy Dimensions and Bravely Default (albeit the former is a genre/franchise crossover with Tactics Ogre). Combine all of this with an annual (unofficial) charity run, and you have a franchise dark horse, making it a tough act to follow of its own, especially when sizing up Dimensions and Default.
- And then there's Nobuo Uematsu: he has since produced many solid and great video game soundtracks, but after the dozens of anthems to video game awesomeness that pervade the sixth installment, for some people, everything he composed since is fated to be seen as "not as good as FFVI's soundtrack." Uematsu himself considers Final Fantasy IX's OST his Magnum Opus.
- BioShock 2 is a decently good game, but it lives in the shadow of BioShock 1, one of the most renowned and critically acclaimed games of all time. Had it been released as its own animal, it might've gotten decent recognition; as is, it's often seen as little more than a pale imitation, repeating most of the same steps the original took in the hopes of creating the same magic while introducing an element of chaotic multiplayer into a game about fear and isolation. BioShock Infinite, however, averted this and received praise on equal level to the original, some even finding themselves preferring Infinite over the original.
- Super Metroid set a standard for every subsequent game in the Metroid series and (by extension) the Metroidvania genre in general. This was the only reason we didn't get Metroid 64, as the creator said almost word for word that Super Metroid was a Tough Act to Follow.
- Metroid Prime was fantastically well-received, smashing through the Polygon Ceiling and successfully switching genres from platformer to FPS while appeasing the fans. Once the Prime subseries ended, the next 3D Metroid title was Metroid: Other M, which had a very hard time following up both Retro Studios' games and Super Metroid.
- Deus Ex, naturally. Provided you accept that there were acts that followed it at all; quite a lot of fans don't.
- The original Yoshis Island: Super Mario World 2 was a great game, seen as a classic entry in the Mario series in all respects. However, Yoshi's Story and Yoshi's Island DS, despite being good games on their own, got incredibly badly overshadowed by the original, to the point of the former being ripped apart for not being the same style and general gameplay as Yoshi's Island. They listened with Yoshi's New Island, but then people started complaining It's the Same, Now It Sucks.
- One of the reasons why Duke Nukem Forever festered as long in development as it did, according to a Wired article, was simply because 3D Realms wanted their game to be as groundbreaking as Duke Nukem 3D was back in its day. As a result, they were constantly adding more and more new features into the game, upgrading the technology and occasionally starting the entire project from scratch because what they had wasn't up to par, until they ran out of funding in 2009 and Gearbox finished off what they had two years later.
- The reason less like Donkey Kong Country 3 compared to the second game. The second game was (and still is) the generally most well received in the series, and the very different style of the third is something that seems to have not quite lived up it in the same way.
- Donkey Kong Country Returns would have been a lot more well-received, if it didn't have the Donkey Kong Country label. While a great game standing alone from the others, it was criticized because of the ditching of ice and underwater levels, having all Kongs but Donkey, Diddy, and Cranky suffer Chuck Cunningham Syndrome, and having the Tiki Tak Tribe replace the Kremling Krew. Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze , the follow-up, fixed all these problems but the last one, but made the new villains in that game seem more like Expies of the Kremlings rather than entirely new antagonists.
- In hindsight, Harmonix choosing to craft their first single-artist Rock Band game around the musical output of The Beatles might have been a poorly considered move in the long term, because no matter how great your music is, it's very, very difficult to find another group as universally beloved as The Beatles. So who did they pick for their next game? Green Day. After making two overwhelmingly popular franchises (the aforementioned Rock Band and Dance Central), Harmonix announced that they were making a game based off of Disney's legendary Fantasia films. So far what they had shown failed to impress fans as the gameplay requires you to use your arms rather than using your whole body like in Dance Central. And the song count is quite low compared to their other games. Fans are still waiting for the next Dance Central or Rock Band to be announced.
- The Paper Mario series is falling apart because of the role-playing game Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door being a Tough Act to Follow, with its good battle system, horde of Ensemble Darkhorses, Awesome Music, and hilarious, heartwarming, and sometimes sad plotline. Nintendo feared It's the Same, Now It Sucks for its sequels, so both Super Paper Mario and Paper Mario: Sticker Star have both went under an Unexpected Genre Change, to platformer and sticker-collecting Metroidvania respectively. Fans missed the classic elements and are still longing for a true successor today.
- At this point, the entire Castlevania series is trapped in the shadow of the Symphony of the Night for most. On the other hand, Aria of Sorrow was really well received for a unique battle system of collecting souls from defeated enemies (at random), a less crufty castle design, and a great Tomato Surprise Plot Twist of the game's protagonist. Its direct sequel, Dawn of Sorrow, improved upon the game balance in many ways while not straying much, though received a bit of flak for the grinding of souls needed for upgrading weapons and the souls themselves, as well as the seals needed to destroy the bosses. Castlevania: Portrait of Ruin is often considered either It's the Same, Now It Sucks or It's Easy, so It Sucks, and Castlevania: Order of Ecclesia is, while well received (and Nintendo Hard) a form of a stale formula. The game after that was the Lords of Shadow Continuity Reboot.
- Most of the Classic Mega Man series' sequels (and their soundtracks) generally aren't considered quite as good and memorable as Mega Man 2. 9, however, was good enough to revive the series and rival 2's level of quality and popularity. This naturally became apparent, once 10 came out, divided the fanbase again and performed below sales expectations. The only real alternatives to MM2 you'll see fans frequently mention are Mega Man 3 (which counts as Magnum Opus Dissonance, given Keiji Inafune's thoughts on the game's development) and Mega Man V, and when discussing sequel series Mega Man X, the only title seen on equal footing with the first is Mega Man X4.
- The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time is generally considered to be one of the greatest games in the franchise, and by many outside of it one of the greatest games ever. Future games in the series, while still very good, garner complaints because of how unlike (or, sometimes, how like) Ocarina of Time they are. Some of the later games, like Majora's Mask and Wind Waker, were succesfully Vindicated by History, but in the grand scale of the series' lifetime they still suffered from the high bar left by the 1998 title.
- The Silent Hill series has struggled in the shadow of its second incarnation through four sequels, numerous comics and its film release. Silent Hill 2 is widely regarded as the definitive installment, which tragically influenced its subsequent media by having various elements recur when they were either unwelcome or poorly implemented (Sexy Monster Nurses, Pyramid Head, solipsistic protagonists fighting through suppressed trauma). Even Team Silent's third and fourth game failed to enthrall the wider public as their predecessor did.
- Infinty Ward's first two games were critical and commercial successes. Then they released Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare. They turned a good-selling series into a Cash Cow Franchise, perfected the single player experience, changed the perception of the "generic shooter" from World War II to modern, and created the possibly the most addictive multiplayer system of all time. Both Treyarch and I-Dub have had trouble following that act.
- Tecmo Bowl had this happen after Tecmo Super Bowl was released for the NES. In 1993, they released a sequel (not a port, contrary to popular belief), also named Tecmo Super Bowl for the SNES and Mega Drive (Genesis). One of the main reasons was because of the roster changes from the 1990 season to the 1993 preseason. Many teams and players got better or worse, such as Dallas improved the most and Chicago got worse. One common complaint was the three-season mode, where you play three seasons in a row with one team to get a better ending. Of course, it's an optional feature.
- Saints Row 2 was beloved by so many that Saints Row: The Third almost had to be a letdown. Taken on its own merits, there's not a lot wrong with The Third, but when compared to its predecessor, there's a lot missing. For every new great thing that The Third introduced, it gave up something else from its predecessor. Better looking models but way less-extensive character customization. Better action, less reason to care about the characters. Better graphics for the city, but much more boring design for the city. Shaundi becoming a completely different character from her original to the point of being unrecognizable. The optional side-activities becoming mandatory, and a lot of the popular ones from the past (like FUZZ or Septic Avenger) completely gone. So on and so forth.
- This is one of many ways one can describe what's happened to Sonic the Hedgehog. The original three games (this is taking Sonic 3 and Sonic & Knuckles together as the complete title) and Sonic CD are hailed effectively universally as the shining gems of the series (and fantastic examples of high speed platforming in general). Every. Single. Sonic. Game. Since. Then. Has been trying to get out of this shadow, some to far better results than others, and even then each one has an unfortunately strong Fandom Rivalry to go with it. The series has gone on to become the exemplary sample of Broken Base (amongst other things) as a result of this very trope.
- Seems to have died down in the past few years, as Sonic Colors and Sonic Generations have been very well received by critics. Even most fans consider the two to be well done. Naturally, these two games combined to create another tough act to follow when Sonic Lost World was released.
- Super Mario 64 is considered to be the best Mario 3D platforming game in the history of the series, despite it dividing the fans over whether or not the 3D games are better than the 2D games. Super Mario Sunshine had an extremely hard time living up to everyone's expectations that was set by 64. Sunshine wasn't a bad game by any means, but many fans prefer 64 because the game was more open compared to Sunshine. Super Mario Galaxy also was met with high expectations and it generally succeeded.
- Most succeeding installments from the Super Robot Wars series are generally regarded as better than their predecessors, at least when it comes to the same platform. Super Robot Wars W for the Nintendo DS is a fan favorite, featuring a great cast of series and well-liked original characters. Super Robot Wars K, on the other hand, had a myriad of problems, alongside increased difficulty and standardization of many game mechanics. Many players didn't sit well with K when they thoroughly enjoyed W.
- This can be said of the Heaven's Feel scenario for Fate/stay night as on top of the issues it has (due to time constraints), it follows up the very Popular Unlimited Blade Works scenario. This also applies to the heroines of both, Rin and Sakura with the latter's lack of real development causing some fans to see her as The Scrappy.
- The Dragon Age series sometimes comes across as this. The original game was heralded as a return to the good old days of the CRPG, a spiritual successor to the storied Baldur's Gate franchise. The sequel is a good game on its own merits but often fares poorly when compared to its predecessor. Dragon Age: Inquisition on the other hand...
- Likewise, just trying to live up to the first Knights of the Old Republic; the Obsidian-made second game is a point of contention that was unfortunately rushed for a Christmas release. Star Wars: The Old Republic is breaking the base not just for being an MMO, but also because some of the game's Backstory turned that epic first game into a textbook Shoot the Shaggy Dog.
- Golden Sun was a fantastic two-part series ending on so many plot hooks the fans clamored for a sequel. Golden Sun: Dark Dawn, released years later, didn't quite live up to the legacy.
- The first Streets of Rage was a decent counter to Final Fight. However, Streets of Rage 2 would easily be the best game in the series and one of the best games on the Sega Genesis and among beat-em-ups in general. Streets of Rage 3, even with its added features like cut-scenes, couldn't surpass it.
- Depending on who you ask, The Elder Scrolls II: Daggerfall, The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind, The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, or The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim is the best game in the The Elder Scrolls series. The fight began at Morrowind's release, and continues to this very instant with only the original not having many people argue in its favor.
- While Fable III still got favorable reviews, it wasn't as good as the second. Possibly because one of the most common complaints was how they changed the gaming mechanic.
- Many of the complaints about Total War Rome II are essentially this: it's a pretty good game in its own right, but it's the immediate follow up to one of the best games in the series and a remake of the other best game in the series.
- While Drakengard 3 is accepted by the fans as a worthy sequel to the main games, it came after NieR which is regarded as the series' Magnum Opus and Drakengard 3 being unable to live up to that game's legacy.
- Lemmings 2: The Tribes improved on its predecessors in many ways (and added many new abilities) — so many, in fact, that almost every other game in the series (typically Mission Pack Sequels to the original with some added gimmick, such as 3D environments or touch screen mechanics) has been generally considered So Okay, It's Average by the fanbase.
- Arc System Works are responsible for the Guilty Gear series, a game that has a respectable place among the Fighting Game Community for its unique mechanics compared to other franchises like Street Fighter, with a very rock and roll influenced artstyle that many appreciated. They would lose the rights to the series years later, but not wanting to discontinue their fighting game resume, they made a Spiritual Successor named Blazblue. The series does well enough in its own country to not qualify for this trope, but in America? It has a massive stigma against it for being "Anime!Guilty Gear", mostly due to its more Anime influenced character designs, and simpler mechanics. All Blazblue did was just make the fanbase want another Guilty Gear as it already been years of updated releases rather than a new game. When Guilty Gear finally got an actual sequel years later in Guilty Gear Xrd, Blazblue's latest releases got mostly lukewarm-decent reception to the American crowd as the hype for a new Guilty Gear was felt all throughout the community.
- Sean Howard has provided this, as the reason why he's not writing any more webcomics. A Modest Destiny got very popular for getting very dark, and when he entered emotional recovery he didn't feel he could write like that any more. However, when he tries to write anything more lighthearted, he gets hate letter after hate letter from people demanding that he finish AMD rather than "waste time" on his new project.
- When Doug Walker retired The Nostalgia Critic after four years of internet fame in order to pursue a show that he'd been dreaming of doing for ages, the fan base was split three ways: the first group welcomed it for being a darker, more emotional commentary on Horrible Hollywood than Doug's previous works, the second group thought the show was too preachy and relied too heavily on Shallow Parody, and the third group didn't care about the show at all and refused to watch it because it wasn't the Nostalgia Critic. The third group's boycott ended up cutting into the show's profits and they ultimately won out with the return of the Critic, much to the dismay of the first and second groups who loved the show/thought it could be improved.
- Beast Wars had such a devoted and passionate fanbase that when Beast Machines premiered, it was held to an impressively high standard and unfortunately, in the eyes of many fans, did not meet expectations. And since then, Beast Wars has become almost like a measuring stick for newer Transformers shows to be compared to.
- The Transformers franchise suffers from this as a whole. Despite numerous reboots the 1984 series is considered the definitive version. Any new version is compared to it and rarely passes. Even Beast Wars, the most successful reboot had hatedom for a while ("Trukk not munky", et al).
- One of the reasons why this situation results in numerous arguments among fans is because the Generation 1 show and Beast Wars are seen as "the standard" for different reasons by different people. G1 for many fans is the definition of Transformers — its concepts, the characters, the designs, the overall "feeling" of the show is what hard-core fans want to re-experience in every new cartoon. Beast Wars, on the other hand (and nowadays Transformers Animated and Transformers Prime as well), is used as a comparison point because it is a generally good, solid, quality production. In short, part of the fandom strives for the preservation of details between the different TF iterations, while the other isn't so concerned about these, just want a show that's good in its own right.
- Many of the revivals of Looney Tunes have suffered from trying to live up to the quality of the original Golden Age theatrical cartoons. That said, Space Jam and The Looney Tunes Show tried to avert this by intentionally going in a different direction from the original shorts (sans the new Wile E Coyote CG shorts)—the latter show's producers even admitted that they did this because they realized by that point that trying to imitate the original cartoons would only lead to more failures. Some were happy, but most were not.
- The Flintstones: The first succesful animated sitcom on TV proved particularly difficult to top, even for Hanna & Barbera themselves. They tried with The Jetsons, but it never caught on quite the same way. Virtually every Hanna & Barbera animated TV series after that failed to duplicate the enormous success The Flintstones had with both adults and children. Scooby-Doo was the closest they got in duplicating the commercial success, but it was definitely more of a children's show and also received that way by adults. Eventually the first animated TV sitcom hit to surpass the success of The Flintstones with children and adults would be The Simpsons.
- The Simpsons is another example of this trope. Many animated series have tried to duplicate its succesful format, but none have become quite the commercial and critical success with both children and adults. Yes, South Park and Family Guy have both become commercial hits, but strictly with adults and both of them are too crass and lowbrow vulgar for mainstream audiences, whereas The Simpsons has somewhat of a more dignified stature, especially among adults. Even Matt Groening's own followup, Futurama, failed to attract the same colossal audience and is still nothing more than a Cult Classic, cancelled and revived several times in a row.
- South Park has broken so much taboos and shocked so many audiences that no other TV series, animated or live-action, has been able to create a similar Refuge in Audacity show and stay on the air as long as they did. And even their imitators and successors don't dare to go as far as Trey Parker and Matt Stone often go in their subject matter.
- The Un-Canceled Family Guy has had similar problems living up to its first few seasons.
- Check a video on YouTube for The Batman or Batman: The Brave and the Bold and see how long it takes to scroll through the comments and find someone complaining it isn't as good as Batman: The Animated Series or that Kevin Conroy or Mark Hamill do a better Batman and Joker. Maybe this tendence will continue with other animated adaptations of that character...
- The Spectacular Spider-Man adapted Spider-Man and his adventures with a good balance of drama and humor, updated characters and stories for the 21st century while retaining their likable traits, and managed to fit a relatively high amount of depth. Unfortunately, Sony Pictures Television's rights to Spidey expired, which resulted in a premature cancellation, and the rise of a new cartoon: Ultimate Spider-Man. Several Marvel fans find that it doesn't take itself very seriously, and the characters don't seem as endearing. The high level of Cutaway Gags and running gags in Ultimate Spider-Man can make it unbearable to sit through for viewers wanting more drama and/or characterization.
- The first animated Peanuts special, A Charlie Brown Christmas, attracted half of the nation's TV viewers of its time, won a Pulitzer Prize, and continues to air every winter to this day. The second, Charlie Brown's All-Stars, didn't win any awards, and only airs sporadically these days. The fact Charlie Brown's second most popular TV special came a few months afterward probably pushed it even deeper into obscurity.
- Avengers Assemble has the misfortune of following The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes among cartoons based on The Avengers. After the series' announcement, fans already felt like cursing Marvel Animation for not going beyond 52 episodes of Earth's Mightiest Heroes, despite the fact the announcement said nothing more than, "A new Avengers cartoon will come next year."
- When Recess premiered in 1997 as one of the premiere shows of One Saturday Morning, it attracted a huge fanbase (most being a part of the Periphery Demographic) and critical acclaim, as well as being nominated for many awards (and winning one), getting a very successful movie (and two direct-to-video films), and gaining various types of merchandise, while the rest of the shows on the block eventually faded into obscurity. In 2001, the creators made another show for the block, Lloyd in Space, which despite getting very good ratings and reception, it never matched the popularity Recess had (and eventually got Screwed by the Network). The new Pound Puppies series from the same creators is also not looked on upon as fondly as Recess.
- John Kricfalusi hit the proverbial jackpot with the amazing success of Ren and Stimpy in the 1990s. Most, if not all, of his subsequent cartoons have been widely panned, or at best receive a So Okay, It's Average response.
- While Avatar: The Last Airbender is widely beloved, both the comic book continuation The Promise, The Search, and the sequel series The Legend of Korra had a more mixed reception, and while generally considered to be good, are rarely considered to be equal to the original series.
- The original Fox seasons of Futurama have built a reputation as a Sacred Cow, with a rabid fanbase hailing them as dripping with perfection. Both the Direct-to-Video miniseries' and especially the Comedy Central seasons have been doomed to the highest levels of scrutiny in comparison.
- Many fans feel that the Un-Cancelled Fairly OddParents and T.U.F.F. Puppy do not measure up to Butch Hartman's past creations, especially since he set the bar so high with Danny Phantom.